Seth Hamilton was nearing his 17th birthday and knew he wasn’t going to college. His after-high-school plans did not involve a four-year institution. Rising student loans and lack of finances steered Seth away from the popular choice of college and universities. As a junior at Lincoln High School, Seth enrolled in AJAC’s first Youth Apprenticeship program for high school students. One year later, Seth, along with Sean Colyer, another youth apprentice, are set to graduate and become Washington State’s first youth apprentice graduates this June.
During a visit from Governor Inslee in April, four of AJAC’s youth apprentices, along with their respective employers, toured the Governor around their shop floor highlighting the impact Youth Apprenticeship has made. “We started years ago trying to recruit younger people,” said Marianne Eveland, Production Manager at Quality Stamping & Machining. “This program allows the community to have extra help recruiting the right type of people.” A thorough vetting process designed by AJAC and local employers provided companies a platform to find the right candidates who have a focus on growing their skill set in manufacturing, whether it be machining, engineering, or fabrication.
During the recruitment process at all ten Tacoma public high schools, Hamilton showed a strong interest in manufacturing. Lincoln High School, known locally for its outstanding shop class, laid the foundation for his success at American Structures & Design. Although he worked with manual machines in high school, Hamilton soon developed a new-found-love for Computer Numerical Controlled (CNC) machines, “Working on CNC machines is pretty intimate. It can be tedious at times, but you’re not doing the same thing every day. It has a lot of different things that can happen, different things you have to look for. It keeps the job interesting, it keeps your brain working.”
What else are we going to build and how else are we going to build this company? Knowing today, it’s going to be with the younger guys.” – Mark Weissenbuehler, President of American Structures & Design
Sean Colyer, another Lincoln High School graduate, works alongside Seth at American Structures & Design in the machining department. Unlike Seth, Sean did not take shop class during his time in high school. However, engineering class contributed to his success in AJAC’s Youth Apprenticeship program. “What I’ve enjoyed doing at American Structures & Design is mainly work on machines and have the ability to do more than just machining,” Colyer said. “Engineer Design in high school helped me with knowing how AutoCAD works, which all of our drawings are based off of. It’s nice having the background of how the drawings are made while I look at the blueprint.”
Employing high school students on the shop floor can do more than help a company’s bottom line and hiring needs. It brings an added excitement. It enriches the morale of the shop floor from entry-level employees to the very top.
Mark Weissenbuehler, President of American Structures & Design, noticed the enthusiasm youth apprentices bring to manufacturing, “As we got involved with the youth apprentices, and the younger generation, it was fun to watch them evolve, learn, and get excited. Which in return helped me learn and get excited,” Weissenbuehler said. “It filled the need for where my company is at and where we are going. What else are we going to build and how else are we going to build this company? Knowing today, it’s going to be with the younger guys.”
The trend across America for employing the next generation is changing. No longer does every student fit into the same mold as a four-year, college-bound student. Too many jobs and opportunities are being passed simply because the experience of working in manufacturing isn’t made available. Youth Apprenticeship has made local companies in Washington State find the diamond in the ruff. The diamond in this case is a determined, well-mannered, motivated, and technologically advanced high school student. Youth Apprenticeship doesn’t have to be for someone who will never go to a four-year college, but it can be for anyone who wants to connect real-world skills with their personal interests and aspirations.
Hamilton and Colyer are set to graduate on June 22nd as Production Technicians Youth Apprentices. The road to manufacturing has been paved, but their journey is far from over. After their requirements are met, Hamilton and Colyer will enroll in AJAC’s Machinist (Aircraft Oriented) apprenticeship program to continue their education and on-the-job training. But where would they be today if this opportunity didn’t exist?
“I hope as more and more people find out about this program, especially if they are younger in high school like I was, to seriously think about it. If you have a little experience, and you like it, you can start making money right away. Kick start your life rather than wait around for ten years, not knowing what to do,” Hamilton explained. “The fact I get paid to take college courses, is the exact opposite of what it normally is, it’s pretty cool, I like it a lot. But I honestly don’t know where I would be today.”
View photos from Governor Inslee’s visit on AJAC’s Flickr page.
Trevor Mohon, a first-year machinist apprentice at RTC Aerospace – Fife Division, discusses his decision to pursue machining after high school. Trevor explains how this industry has challenged him, the future of manufacturing, and the skills he applies to the job everyday.
A special thanks to Nick Pulido for allowing AJAC to share this video!
The Aerospace Joint Apprenticeship Committee, in partnership with the YWCA and South Seattle College hosted the first-ever Women in Manufacturing Symposium at South Seattle College – Georgetown Campus, highlighting the training and career opportunities available to women in advanced manufacturing.
AJAC’s Executive Director Lynn Strickland (left) and AJAC Machining Apprentice Ebonee Heller (right) of Pioneer Industries
The symposium was led by a panel of women who are involved or currently work in manufacturing, including career navigators, apprenticeships and industry managers. The panel fielded questions regarding the role of women in advanced manufacturing and how AJAC’s pre-apprenticeship program, the Manufacturing Academy (MA), can boost their confidence and provide job-ready skills for a rewarding career. AJAC’s MA utilizes a comprehensive approach to retraining workers through 10 weeks of hands-on learning, soft skills training, insight into the industry, and applied mathematics.
The panelists debunked every myth in manufacturing, from the “dark and dirty” shop floor to the applied shop math. The most frequent question asked during the symposium rested on the presumption that manufacturing poses barriers to women including their lack of transferable skills, “you have to get in there and take the extra step,” said Donna Raz, a Manufacturing Academy instructor. The days of mindless heavy-lifting have been replaced by innovative techniques and state-of-the-art technology which some say, women are a better fit for. “Women have better hand-eye coordination and attention to detail,” said one panelist. These skills are ideal for many careers in manufacturing such as Quality Assurance and Maintenance Technicians.
Women – welcome back to manufacturing
Nevertheless, a booming industry requires a well-trained workforce, but how can an industry that is historically represented by men challenge the status-quo that women can play a role in manufacturing?
For starters, the industry needs to focus on empowering women to try something new and bold that takes them out of their comfort zone. It’s no secret, local manufacturers want to hire more women, but very few apply.
AJAC’s Technical Specialist, Teri Hegel demonstrates machining on a HAAS CNC VF 2
Advocacy for women in manufacturing is key to creating a more diversified and well-balanced workforce. Through conversation and encouragement, manufacturing has a strong chance to continue its reign as America’s backbone. Take on the challenge of building something new every day and as one panelist said “women – welcome back to manufacturing.”
Tommy grew up in a big family with three brothers and two sisters in Grays Harbor on Washington State’s coast. He was involved in school and sports as a young teen. However, when things started to get difficult at home, Tommy started spending more time outside of the house, hanging out with a different crowd.
At first, he was just hanging out with kids and smoking marijuana, but then meth was introduced to him and his addiction began. Tommy stopped participating in school sports and going to class, and in his freshman year he started robbing houses with other boys to pay for his new habit. He was kicked out of high school for his many truancies and arrests.
In his sophomore year he transferred to a new high school but things really went downhill when he started selling drugs. By the time he was a junior he had served time in juvenile detention, and when he was released he went to live with his grandmother. He attempted to attend school and work, but the violations and arrests built up again as his addiction reared its ugly head.
This AJAC apprenticeship training that Pioneer is giving me brings some light to the end of the tunnel.
Eventually, Tommy’s felonies for possession of drugs and stolen property lead led him to prison. He ended up serving a 20-month sentence in prison and several years on probation. After his release, he fell back into drug use – but this time he was selling heroin and meth. At a family event his former partner brought his child to see him and that’s when Tommy realized he needed to get clean.
“When I looked into my son’s eyes I knew that I had to quit. I was sinking fast and I needed help. I self-reported my drug use to my probation officer and was put into residential treatment.”
When Tommy finished the treatment program he moved in with family in Everett for support and attended NA meetings. His probation officer told him about Pioneer and he enrolled in the Roadmap to Success job training program to get prepared for work. He learned about Pioneer’s aerospace manufacturing division and was hired at Pioneer Industries six days after he graduated from Roadmap to Success.
Tommy has off probation and working hard over the last few years at Pioneer Industries learning all the manufacturing machines. He was accepted into the two-year AJAC sheet metal fabrication apprenticeship program and is excelling in the program.
“People need to realize that when someone gets out of prison they have debts and responsibilities stacked on them immediately. Getting hired in a job where you can grow your position is really important. I want to be a good father and provider and this AJAC apprenticeship training that Pioneer is giving me brings some light to the end of the tunnel. Housing is another issue and scoring an affordable apartment in one of Pioneer’s housing programs was a big relief.”
AJAC was granted permission from Pioneer Human Services to publish this article. Click here to read the original.
How a business leader is keeping manufacturing and machining alive, by training millennials in skilled trades. Hear from Matt Washburn of Senior Aerospace AMT, who is redefining the stigma of manufacturing, and the impact it’s having on local communities.